Lafayette may give amnesty for parking, traffic ticket scofflaws

The Lafayette City-Parish Council is considering giving drivers until April 30 to pay the nearly 29,000 past-due city parking tickets and traffic camera citations before the start of a tougher collection policy.

The council last year approved a new collection policy that calls for the City-Parish Attorney’s Office to file lawsuits to recover traffic camera citations.

The hope is the amnesty program would be an incentive for drivers to pay delinquent fines before city-parish government spends the money to take them to court, City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert wrote in a memo to council members.

Those drivers who take advantage of the offer could pay delinquent fines without penalties for late payment, which would knock 33 percent off a past-due bill, Hebert wrote.

Hebert wrote that his office plans to begin filing lawsuits to collect unpaid fines after the amnesty period ends.

The number of unpaid parking tickets and traffic camera violations totals 28,769 for the past three years — 11,843 parking tickets and 16,926 red light and speeding violations under the city’s automated traffic camera enforcement program, according to figures from city-parish government.

That’s about $2 million in fines that has gone uncollected, plus another $1 million in penalties for late payment, according to the figures.

There has been no widespread or focused effort to collect the unpaid traffic camera violations.

For unpaid parking tickets, the city’s Traffic and Transportation Department has been relying mainly on the threat of the “boot” to immobilize vehicles owned by repeat offenders who fail to pay.

The city booted 46 vehicles last year for unpaid parking tickets, which is about average for the past few years, City-Parish Parking Administrator Pearly Alfred said.

“These people are just not coming in (to pay),” she said.

Alfred said the city mails two letters to violators about unpaid parking tickets before placing their vehicles on the list of vehicles subject to booting.

The measure up for a vote at Tuesday’s council meeting will, in addition to offering amnesty, authorize the City-Parish Attorney’s Office to file lawsuits to recover unpaid parking tickets.

That change would bring the collection policy for parking fines in line with the collection policy for traffic camera tickets.